Brisbane is going through an urban renaissance; new hip hotels are opening together with creative spaces, music venues and small bars. With reasonable rents, the city and surrounds are still affordable for independent creatives to design and produce interesting fashion, music and cuisine. This welcome revitalisation is making the capital of Queensland the coolest city in Australia right now. Don't believe us? Here's proof.
Down in the Valley – that's Fortitude Valley – two brothers are transforming a whole precinct one laneway at a time. Charlie and Arthur Apostolos began with the inviting Winn Lane (winnlane.com.au), home of Tym's Guitars and fashion accessories at Sunday Social and earlier this year opened the nearby Bakery Lane (bakerylane.com.au). Tenants include a vintage store called Phase 4 selling records, a florist, a small bar, gluten-free delights at I Heart Brownies and a Peter Pan-themed organic cafe called The Lost Boys. Later this year they will be redeveloping another disused space and calling it California Lane, after their father's cafe, long a Brisbane institution.
While original music venues further south are closing their doors, in Brisbane they are thriving. Best is recently opened The Triffid, owned by John Collins, bass player from Brisbane royalty – Powderfinger (thetriffid.com.au). Housed in a World War II hangar in Newstead, the venue also has a casual beer garden and serves up a great halloumi burger at the Feedback Cafe. On Caxton Street, Lefty's Old Time Music Hall – housed in a former strip club – serves whiskey with freshly squeezed apple juice and features bands nightly (leftysmusichall.com). There's also a cool nautical theme Mermaid Lounge upstairs. The same owners have recently launched Sonny's House of Blues, an 80s metal themed dive bar in the CBD's Rowes Lane (sonnyshouseofblues.com).
With numerous bike lanes and a state rule that cyclists can pedal on the footpaths, Brisbane is the perfect city to discover using the inexpensive CityCycle scheme (citycycle.com.au). Courtesy helmets are also available with many of the bikes at stations around the city. Cycle along the snaking Brisbane River to the Gallery of Modern Art on the Southbank, spend a hour or so perusing the latest free exhibitions (the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art runs until 10 April 2016; qagoma.qld.gov.au) then cycle your way under the shade of the Moreton Bay figs to West End to shop and eat.
For breakfast, head to sun-filled and well-designed Gauge on Grey Street in South Brisbane. The new cafe (it opened in March) offers inventive seasonal local produce including black garlic bread with brown butter and burnt vanilla. For lunch, choose a casual outdoor experience in West End at Brisbane Brewing Co. They brew eight different craft beers and serve New York-deli style snacks on a giant platter (brisbanebrewing.com.au). For dinner, the three-hatted degustation menu at Esquire continues to impress, (esquire.net.au/esquire/).
NEXT Hotel, on the old site of The Chifley at Lennons is on the Queen Street Mall and offers entry and check-in via a smartphone app and room entry via mobile phone. Their Lennons Pool Terrace and Bar is the perfect setting for their Friday evening "pooltino" cocktail parties. There are also sleep pods, a 24-hour gym and a help-yourself pantry available in the Club Lounge (nexthotels.com/brisbane). Read Traveller's review: NEXT Hotel, Brisbane
Also noteworthy is TRYP Hotel in Fortitude Valley which is housed in the former clubhouse of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. The hotel features local artworks, a rooftop bar called Up on Constance and Chur burger at street level. Book a king room and enjoy lounging in the outdoor spa on the terrace www.trypbrisbane.com. Read Traveller's review: TRYP Hotel
If you prefer not to cycle, the free City Loop and Spring Hill Loop bus services circle the city every 10 minutes and stop at destinations in the CBD and Spring Hill precincts on weekdays. You can also travel between Brisbane's inner-city precincts by hopping on the free CityHopper ferry service, which travels along the river from North Quay to Sydney Street, New Farm (translink.com.au).
The writer was a guest of Tourism Queensland